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5 Reasons Why #BodyGoals Can Never Be Body Positive

Why tagging your fave’s pic as #goals may actually be problematic and harmful to your self-image

Having goals is always a good thing, right? Goals mark a desire for self-improvement and suggest a level of self-awareness and agency that is necessary in success-driven adulthood. That being said, many of us may recall that the latter half of 2015 was met with many feminist critiques of #SquadGoals as it mostly pertained to Taylor Swift’s exclusive army of her famous female friends. The problem with #goals begins when goals are based on appearances and you think critically of what is being placed as the juxtaposition to such ideals.

By now #BodyGoals has been a trending tag for a while, re-surging in popularity every time Kim Kardashian posts a nude selfie or after Teyana Taylor’s groundbreaking performance in Kanye West’s “Fade” music video debut at the 2016 VMA’s. Something about the hashtag always made me cringe but I did not know how to approach the subject, not even with my friends. I once asked them “What does that mean? What does it mean for someone’s body to be goals?” It felt like a really stupid question to ask but a part of me just felt like I needed to talk about it aloud. I was met with mostly confused looks, as I predicted, but one of my friends turned to me and said simply, “It means body goals, it means I want my body to look like hers.”

My friend’s response took me back to where I was in my first year of college, scrolling through Tumblr at 3 am past images of sad-looking emaciated women who had decided to share their suffering with other people online to “inspire” us to take the route they’ve chosen to take with their body image or succumb to their eating disorders in hopes of achieving and/or maintaining our collective #goal, to be skinny. Once I drew this parallel it was easier for me to recognize why hearing other people’s #BodyGoals always made me cringe and why it never has been nor ever will be body positive.

  1. #BodyGoals is the new #Thinspo

Yes, there are some stark differences between #BodyGoals and #Thinspo like for one #BodyGoals does not suggest any dangerous practices or self-harm to achieve such goals and #BodyGoals don’t necessarily have to denote someone thin. Ashley Graham has been tagged repeatedly as many women’s #goals, especially this year and last year as she’s reached a heightened level of visibility and has achieved so many accolades that no size 16 woman ever has before. However, I still do not count this as a victory and I don’t think Ashley Graham would either. Most plus-size models and bloggers identify as being body positive advocates, meaning they want to eradicate the standard, not replace it. Many people may think that wanting to look like Ashley Graham is automatically body positive, not considering that someone who’s a size 20 wanting to be a size 16 is not much different than someone who is a size 8 wanting to be a size 4. It’s true that there is a motley of ideal body types being promoted at the moment rather than just one, but promoting multiple ideals is very different from promoting body acceptance. #BodyGoals, just like #Thinspo and #Fitspo, is just a way to get images of socially accepted ideals in one place and promotes longing and personal dissatisfaction with our bodies in order to essentially torture ourselves because we don’t look the way society says we should look or refuse to love ourselves until we achieve said goals.

  1. #BodyGoals implies your body needs improvement

From reading my previous point you may think that I believe it’s wrong for people to want to improve their bodies. The question is, what qualifies as an improvement? Flat stomach? Six-pack abs? Wider hips? Being toned? Augmented breasts? Smaller thighs? Bigger butt? Does that mean that people who have these qualities have better bodies than those who don’t? Does that mean if you don’t have these qualities your body will always be a work in progress or a problem to be solved? How can that be body positive? #BodyGoals implies that some bodies are better than other bodies and some bodies are #goals and others need to be focused on becoming those goals.

Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to want to change your body to look a way in which you feel you could navigate space more comfortably or even just for fashion or aesthetics. It’s your body and you can do whatever you want with it. If your definition of #BodyGoals are a picture of a celeb that you’re going to show to your plastic surgeon to describe what you want done, that’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change your body, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look different than you do naturally. The problem is the language often surrounding these changes that places body types in a hierarchy, where there is a 1% of body types that the 99% should be striving towards.

  1. #BodyGoals promotes diet culture and diet culture is not body positive

One of my fave bloggers, Corissa Enneking of @fatgirlflow recently faced an immense amount of internet backlash for posting a video declaring that dieting is not body positive and because her stance is so nuanced, many people could not understand her firm stance against it. Still, whether or not you agree with her declaration, it is clear to see why at least diet culture cannot be body positive. Diet culture essentially describes how the multi-million dollar dieting industry manipulates us into thinking that thinness is equivalent to being a happy, healthy, and productive members of society, even though dieting has often been proven to be unhealthy and counter-intuitive for several reasons, and being fat is a crime. #BodyGoals is diet culture’s new hot hashtag. Images of celebrities and athletes in combination with this tag is free advertising for all types of diet and weight-loss medications and regimens – the promise of being happier, loved, and accepted written as a fine print no-money-back guarantee in each caption section.

  1. #BodyGoals =/= health goals

“But what about being healthy?” a mysterious voice from out of the blue always asks. Not to trivialize the importance of physical health, but let’s be honest, most people only want to stress being healthy when it comes to fat people. There is no way that #BodyGoals can be used to describe someone’s goals for becoming healthier because healthy is not a body type. You can be a vegan and be a size 22, you can be a size 14 yoga instructor, you can be a size 2 and eat a diet of strictly Taco Bell, your size is not an indication of your health – period. When we equate the way someone’s body looks with how healthy someone is, it creates room for ignorance in the name of health promotion, aka “concern trolling”, that is used to perpetuate fatphobia and further marginalize fat people in society.

  1. #BodyGoals places too much emphasis on outward appearances

Your body is a vessel not an accomplishment or a goal. Your body is what you use to accomplish your goals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good and loving the way you look is essential to many aspects of your life, but the purpose of body positivity is to no longer be bogged down by society’s expectations of our appearances to the point that it detracts from what you have to offer as a person, aside from the necessary dismantling of capitalistic, patriarchal, cis- and heteronormative, ableist, and white supremacist beauty standards. We shouldn’t have to squeeze into a mold in order for us to be taken seriously or accepted. Our looks do not determine our value or whether or not we deserve respect. Our goals should pertain to character development, success in our careers, relationships with loved ones, community outreach, charity and organization, and so on. So, I propose that in 2017 we set more meaningful goals that are a lot less problematic.

To be a black girl like me

We’re all connected –

Black girls of my generation,

Like coiled hair in box braids,

Like the stars in a constellation,

Like we’re in on a secret

They’ve tried to bury,

But when we unearthed it

They started to worry.

Told us it doesn’t matter.

Told us it’s worthless.

Told us it was of no consequence

Because that secret was us.

And possessing this truth

Even though it’s no privilege,

It’s another obligation

We have to learn how to deal with;

To protect each other

Like the buried treasure we’ve always been,

To make sure the secret gets out,

To make sure we don’t fall back in.

We’re precious jewels,

We’re diamonds in the rough,

We’re under pressure to conform,

Because we’re more than enough.

We don’t fit the mold of

Eurocentricity;

Our jagged edges

Can cut through anything.

We’re not angry, we’re sharp

And being silenced cuts deep.

The kind of power black girls hold

Is not a secret anyone can keep.

We’ve got dirt in our lungs,

We’ve got bruises on our skin,

We’ve got blood in our teeth,

You see, there’s pain in melanin.

Bruises are our heritage,

We’re hurt and we’re scarred,

But the ugliness of the world

Does not reflect who we are.

We are stars,

Burning bright, unheard

And untouchable,

We’re precious stones

Never left unturned

And unbreakable.

Black girls struggle.

Black girls rock.

Black girls are magic,

But black girls are not.

Black girls laugh.

Black girls cry.

Black girls go missing

And no one asks why.

Black girls are suffocating,

In ways no one understands.

Did anyone try to #BringBackOurGirls?

And #WhatHappenedToSandraBland?

It’s a big deal

To be born in this skin.

It’s not a club

To let Rachel Dolezal in.

There’s no instruction manual,

Just a lot of terms and conditions.

Rebellion is the biggest risk;

Freedom is the mission.

Black girls are Amandla, Zendaya

Keke, Solange, and Nicki;

Black girls are Laverne, Lupita

Quvenzhané, Willow, and Gabourey.

And you might think

In all your outgroup bias

That we’re all jealous of Kylie,

But she’ll never ever know

How awful and wonderful it is

To be a black girl like me.

-Chido

 

Image Source

What is Beauty?

Beauty is an ideal sought after worldwide. People both live and die for beauty. For some beauty is tangible and for others it’s more abstract, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is regarded in one way or another by most living beings. In fact, to disregard beauty and its importance almost always has to be a conscious choice, whereas to praise the elements and characteristics that are deemed the most desirable to whomever it may concern is implicit; it’s just a way of life.

Why is beauty so important to us?

That’s a root I’m sure many of us would like to dig up, at least anyone who has spent as much time considering it as I have, but I feel that the answer, or answers, to that question lie in the definition(s) of beauty itself.

I’m attempting an eight part segment to attempt to explain all the definitions of beauty as I’ve pondered them in my poster-clad dorm room while eating French Fries and drinking Arizona. I’m neither an expert nor am I a sociologist or an anthropologist or anything of the sort, I’m just someone who’s been wondering things and wondering if people are wondering the same things I’m wondering.

Think of this series as more of a discussion than anything; interaction and feedback is more than welcome so long as it is constructive.

Don’t F**k With Big Belly Women

In the most recent issue of Oprah Magazine, there was a Q&A portion of an article where a reader asked “Can I pull off a crop top?” The reader was then given a response by one of the magazine’s writer’s which stated “If (and only if!) you have a flat stomach, feel free to try one.”

We crop top wearing big bellied women immediately proceeded to look down at our exposed stomachs and ask, “bishwet?”

This is definitely not the first time media, especially magazines, and society in general have tried to police the specific garment choices of fat women and it will not be the last time either. We’re repeatedly told to “Wear all black — it’s slimming!” or to “Never wear horizontal stripes!” or “Just don’t wear prints or bright colors in general!” Basically, we’re told to wear a burlap sack because there’s nothing worse that a fat woman can do than be seen, or worse, have her fat be seen, hence the emphasis on the “and only if!” part. It’s been made abundantly clear to us that many people would rather fat women just disappear. Well guess what? Not only are we here, but there is a new generation of fat women who are ready with guns blazing when our right to visibility is attacked by statements such as these.

Upon seeing the snapshot of the atrocious article, I immediately clicked where @oprahmagazine was tagged in the picture to see if there were any more responses to it. This is just a glimpse of what I found:

Screenshot_2015-07-08-21-15-22

20150709_084705 (1)
TL: Tess Holliday (@tessholliday), #effyourbeautystandards TR: Lalaa Misaki (@lalaamisaki) BL: Courtney Noelle (@courtneynoelleinc), #deathtothemumu BR: Cynthia Ramsay Noel (@flightofthefatgirl), #flightofthefatgirl

Everyone from famous plus-size models like Tess Holliday (@tessholliday), the founder of #effyourbeautystandards, plus-size bloggers like Essie Golden (@essiegolden), the founder of #goldenconfidence, Roxy of @rrrstylings and Jolene of @boardroomblonde, featured by Plus Model Magazine (@plusmodelmag), to body-positive IG advocates, curvy tummy women, and even some women with flat tummies, geared up with their selfies to dispute the lies being printed about them (all via instagram). Even a new body-positive tag, which I can’t wait to use all day every day, came out of the outrage: #pullingoffacroptop (created by Sarah Chiwaya of curvilyfashion.com (@curvily)). And so I was inspired to join in on all the excitement:

IMG_20150708_210103

***

What many don’t realize is that when you say a fat woman can’t wear a crop top, you’re saying much more than just that. What you’re actually saying is that a fat woman doesn’t get to make the same choices about her body that a thin woman could. You’re saying that fat women don’t deserve to love themselves and their bodies and you’re saying that fat women don’t deserve to have their choices respected. Whether or not you find fat and rolls aesthetically pleasing to look at is irrelevant. Fat women’s tummies are not killing people, fat women’s tummies are not disturbing the peace, fat women’s tummies are not hurting anyone, but ignorance, bigotry, and bullying are. So the next time you feel entitled to comment on a stranger’s body and tell them what they can and can’t wear – don’t. And ladies, and everyone else too, if you feel good about yourself in what you’re wearing, which I know is so hard for most of us to do no matter what our size, you are f**king pulling it off!

I would also like to call this a HUGE win for tummy love. Even in the plus-size community, big-belly women are often slighted. There is not a lot of appreciation yet for giggly bellies anywhere, but this gives me hope that one day there will be.

Screenshot_2015-07-08-21-43-18-1

Has Africa Fallen Out of Love With Plus-Size Women?

Zion Tribe by Maelle Andre
motel-magazine.com Photography by Maelle Andre

It’s quite possible that I was raised by the only African mother who doesn’t believe that voluptuous body types are beautiful, but if I’m not, I blame colonization (as I do for pretty much everything).

Growing up, it was always hard to find the strength inside me to shut out the thousands of reasons both she and the media gave me to hate my chubby tummy, thick thighs, and round face, but from time to time I found comfort in knowing that the being tall, thin, and white was a eurocentric beauty preference. Being American (first-generation), that’s what I always had to consider, but, being African, it made sense to look to the elephant ear-shaped continent where I found that there are many more things that different cultures find beautiful, including big women.

Fast-forward about 10 years and you’ll find a world where technology is wholly accessible and social media is king queen*. Press play in 2015 and you’ll also find that African fashion has gained steady popularity, though it is still in an early adoption stage. As an aspiring fashion designer, the new-found Afrocentrism is extremely exciting for me. I and other African designers’, both aspiring and on the rise, only hope is that African designers and African nations will be the main ones profiting off the adoption of African fashion in the western world. Racism in the fashion industry is a huge issue that I will continue to explore in this blog, quite often I’m sure; however, I want to start by asking the question that my colleagues have not and probably will not ask: Why are African brands not making clothing for plus-size women?

African Print Turban by The Pretty Caps store on Etsy.com
African Print Turban by The Pretty Caps store on Etsy.com

Like the fashion-loving fat girl I am, the first thing I thought about upon realizing the doors being opened for African fashion, was that there were going to be more people in the industry fighting for, or at least catering to, plus-sizes. Call it wishful thinking or just plain naivete, but imagine my dismay to learn that most of the apparel designers’ sizes stop at size 10. The first thing I asked myself was, “Is this the new standard for Africans now or is this the compromise we have to make to succeed in the Western-dominated industry?”

Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs
Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs

Am I wrong to believe that in promoting diversity in the fashion industry, designers should also promote diverse beauty ideals? The same way that non-Africans who make collections “inspired” by African fashion without using any black models leaves a bad taste in my mouth, African fashion that is inaccessible in bigger sizes just feels plain wrong. Pop in any given African movie into a DVD player and you’ll see thick and fat women galore because Nollywood doesn’t play by Hollywood’s rules—yet, but neither should African fashion. I implore African designers to take this opportunity to twist, bend, and turn the fashion industry inside out. Celebrate the fact that Africa is an entire continent full of beautiful black women of all different shades, shapes, and sizes, and bring that realization and mindset to the industry. It’s time to refuse compromise and break down the boundaries, especially since there is a HUGE market of women like myself who have nothing to wear and would love to know that there is a place in this world where fat, thick, and curvy women are not only accepted, but admired, that is, of course, if that is still the case.

***

Oh yeah, and please do it before the culture vultures in the fashion industry stick a dashiki on a size 8 model and not only call her plus-size, but say that they came up with the idea. You know that’s how it ALWAYS happens. For once, let us be the first to make money off our own ideas.

Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs
Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs

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